5 questions with Sharjah’s iMall boss
Lotfi speaks confidently despite the declining consumer electronics market and growing e-commerce.
How were the three months for iMall since its inception in July? What’s the current occupancy rate?
Since our grand opening in July this year, our customer’s response to the mall has been very promising, and we are on the right track in building the brand. In sq. ft. terms, the occupancy rate is at 85 per cent.
Apparently no major electronics retailers have their stores in the mall. Is it because they are unwilling or that is a strategy?
It’s a strategy, as iMall is a value-based shopping mall providing consumers with a portfolio of fashion and lifestyle brands along with an array IT shops. With regards to the electronics retailers, our key focus has been on SME’s, predominantly due to their ability to offer flexible pricing and willingness to negotiate with consumers.
Researches earlier this year showed that the UAE currently had more malls than the actual demand in the market and thus have reached the point of maximum. Your comments?
I believe that there is space for niche malls or malls with a unique tenant mix. The UAE is developing rapidly with so many new livable areas and the success of a mall depends on various factors, including the classification of the shopping mall, location, tenant mix, promotion and marketing strategy, mall operation etc.
Monir Lotfi, Director of iMall
Fast evolving e-commerce is often cited by retailers as a growing threat to their businesses and they eventually step into the online market place. Don’t you think it is time we had a new, innovative approach in retailing?
True, the online market has been growing rapidly. Our edge though relies within our targeted segment and the ability to connect to a human and bargain with them – you don’t get that online. Additionally, they still want the touch and feel experience of the product and not a lot of people read all the specs when they are shopping online so for a lot of them they would rather have someone taking them through the specs of the product.
To answer your question, there is definitely scope for innovative approaches in retailing, much like many retailers globally are now implementing, and I think it’s only a matter of time for local retailers to catch on and complement their services to stay current.
Industry figures show that the consumer electronics sector growth has been slowing for some time now. Recently, a leading group in the sector admitted it while talking to me. How do you position yourself in the market in these hard times?
I believe that the consumer electronics/ IT sector will always have it swings from time to time just like any other industry. However, this sector in particular is a key driver of economic development on a global level, and can be driven with constant innovation. We just have to constantly keep up-to-date with the latest trends and changing consumer demands. iMall provides consumers with value-based offers, so regardless of economic conditions customers will always receive value for their money.